“Weird Al” Yankovic’s latest single is a great lesson in why heartfelt, personalized language matters when sharing workplace gratitude. The parody singer does a smart spoof of corporate jargon in his latest video, “Mission Statement,” from his new album Mandatory Fun.
It’s a folksy Crosby, Stills and Nash-style tune about how “we must all efficiently operationalize our strategies” and “leverage our core competencies,” set to the backdrop of a whiteboard animation. “Mission Statement” is a postlude to last week’s Mandatory Fun marathon, when Weird Al released a new song from his album each day, including spoofs of Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines” and Pharrell Williams’ “Happy.”
Why jargon can’t express true gratitude
Weird Al has stayed relevant in the music business for more than three decades — unlike the business buzzwords he mocks, which come and go as fads.
“Mission Statement” is a fun reminder that the best workplace communication is genuine, heartfelt and personalized, particularly when it comes to sharing gratitude.
A meaningful thank-you note, for example, draws on specific examples of what you’re grateful for, in your own words.
Generic statements and platitudes come off as insincere when sharing gratitude, and nothing dries up the warm goodwill of a “thank you” like perceived insincerity. How would you feel if your newlywed friends sent out a generic thank-you note to all the wedding guests? Weird Al would agree that’s tacky.
Language matters when it comes to workplace gratitude, because it’s about a lot more than simply saying “thank you” — it’s also about how you describe your colleague’s work, how a company defines purpose and how leaders set the tone by practicing appreciation for others on a daily basis. Building a culture of gratitude requires us to pay attention to people.
The great thing is, the more we pay attention to and appreciate people, the less need we have for generic or trendy language. Our heartfelt thanks come naturally.
what’s so bad about jargon, anyway?
We’re all guilty of using corporate jargon from time to time, and hey, sometimes those buzzwords are actually clever or fit the situation.
The problem that can arise with jargon is with clarity, and expressing what you mean.
“Jargon masks real meaning,” Jennifer Chatman, management professor at the University of California-Berkeley’s Haas School of Business, told Forbes for the 2012 My Say column, “The Most Annoying, Pretentious and Useless Business Jargon.”
“People use it as a substitute for thinking hard and clearly about their goals and the direction that they want to give others,” Chatman said.
Take the phrase “giving 110 percent,” for example. Not only is it mathematically impossible for a person to give more than 100 percent of their efforts, it glosses over how exactly and how well a person dedicated themselves to a project. “Gives 110 percent” sounds like the attribute of a machine, not a human.
So instead of thanking an employee for “giving 110 percent,” you could thank her for staying late every night last week to make sure the portfolio was ready in time for the client meeting Monday morning. Or for figuring out a solution to a stubborn problem by doing the meticulous research no one else knew how to do.
Back up jargon with ‘honest, clear talk’
What’s so genius about Weird Al’s parody is that he gets the very people he’s mocking in on the joke with him — and they love it. The “Mission Statement” video was produced by TruScribe, a leading producer of whiteboard animation videos (the popular production technique of having an artist illustrate on a whiteboard what’s being said in real time). Coincidentally, we’re proud that TruScribe is located right here in gThankYou’s hometown of Madison, Wis.!
TruScribe chief innovation officer Eric Oakland told a local newspaper that Weird Al’s parody is an opportunity to learn.
We were a little worried that we were going to make everyone feel bad because we were making fun of corporate jargon. For most people we work with, this language is a necessity, because jargon is part of how things get communicated. The other side of it is that we see this as an opportunity. Weird Al’s song points out that if the language is hollow and fake, people are going to see right through it. So it fits right in with what we try to do with clients; even if there’s jargon, it is backed up with honest, clear talk.
So, next time you find yourself tempted to use jargon, particularly when sharing gratitude, ask yourself if the words fit the context and if you can find a simpler, more honest way of saying what you mean.
For more on building an amazing culture of employee appreciation and success, download our FREE ebook, “Winning with Workplace Gratitude”.
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